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If My Toddler Tweeted

Given her affinity towards cell phones, she's probably not too far off anyway..

Life - Just a Long Game of Super Mario Brothers

If only we could warp past all of our problems...

My Daughter Can Do Tricks, Wanna See?

No flaming hoops yet, though. YET...

They make WHAT for babies?

10 products I didn't know existed until I became a dad.

A Toddler Divided

Forget the NFL labor disputes, the biggest battle in sports involves my toddler and her Grandpas.

12/20/11

"Lego" of Gender Stereotypes

Lego, I've loved you for as long as I can remember.

From the days of creating simplistic towers and faux weapons with your larger blocks, to graduating to the smaller blocks and building intricate spaceships and cityscapes, you gave me endless amounts of entertainment and creative development as a child. You taught me spatial relations. You taught me the basics of physics. You helped me learn to stretch the creative portion of my brain to realize that with a set of basic blocks, the potential end results were limitless. I even posted about my excitement when it was announced that Legoland would be coming to town.

But I have to admit..you've disappointed me recently. When the news broke that you decided to create a specific line of Legos for girls, I was baffled. Since when did Lego need to have gender-specific subsets? Why, all of a sudden, did a perfectly gender-neutral and universal toy need to be made into something that segregated and dissected its products into 'boy Legos' and 'girl Legos'?

No. Just no.

I don't get it. Sure, you pin it on 'research'. You say that girls 'play differently'. But did you ever think that girls 'play differently' because companies like you try to pigeonhole them into a specific way of playing?

You refer to your own product as 'masculine'. I suggest you come over and tell my 2-year-old daughter that she's playing wrong, because she absolutely loves her set of Legos. It's nothing fancy. It's the same tub I played with when I was a kid, in fact.

Sure, you've created playsets for movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. You have sets with rocketships and astronauts. Newsflash: girls can like those things too.

Girls don't need a Lego house with a pink roof where they can pretend to be Susie Homemaker. They don't need a playset where they pretend to be a pop singer diva. Will some of them want this stuff? Sure. But what girls don't need is you telling them 'Hey, THESE Legos are for you! Ignore all of those others!' And from what I can tell via screenshots, your new 'Legos for girls' take away the one aspect of your toy that made it special: BUILDING. My daughter loves to build things with her Legos. She doesn't need a miniskirted figurine to prance around with, and she certainly doesn't need you telling her that's how she should be using your products.

I won't be buying any of your Legos for Girls products. As far as I'm concerned, my daughter will continue playing with my old Lego sets until they get lost or destroyed in a fire. She doesn't need you telling her how to play or what it means to 'play like a girl'. Instead, I'll let her use Legos like they should always be intended: an open-ended tool for her to create whatever her heart desires without instruction.

12/12/11

A MINE Sweeping Realization

Though my daughter is now officially in her 'Terrible Twos' phase, she naturally got a head start on this period of stubbornness and started her 'No' phase months ago. But now that I've become numb to the consistent toddler hard-headedness, a new behavioral development has entered the fray: The 'Mine' phase.

While the sheer thought of this phase may strike fear into the hearts of some parents, I've spent most of the time scratching my head out of confusion. Because here's the thing: my daughter is weird. And most of the objects she's been claiming as 'hers' are really absurd or just don't make any sense.

Nail clippers. Diced carrots. A bucket lid. A washcloth.

It just hasn't added up. I might have been worried up to this point if she was stealing items from people and claiming them as hers or trying to do it with things like expensive electronics or priceless antique heirlooms (as if I own any of those anyway). So what's the story then? Why the random objects? Why the sudden insistence on claiming items of no value as hers? Then it came to me this morning.

My toddler is a hoarder.

It all makes sense now, really. How she can sit in her own poop and not seem to mind. How she dumps all of her toys all over the living room and takes no issue with just walking all over and through the mess. How, if it were up to her, she'd bring every cat, dog and woodland creature into our home and let it live there indefinitely. I've watched TV. I've seen the reality shows. I know these symptoms, and I know my daughter is starting the path to becoming a grade-A, certified pack rat.

For the love of God, tell me this won't be my daughter in 40 years.

Parents, stop for a moment and take off your rose-colored glasses. Listen for a moment. Does your toddler claim strange objects as his or her own? Look at their room. Should there be FEMA trailers parked next to their changing table? Maybe you are raising a junior hoarder yourself and just don't recognize the signs. Don't live in denial.

So the next time I hear her proclaim "Mine!" for a random, unnecessary object, only one question will come to mind..

Do I start the intervention now or wait until I've pitched a new toddler hoarding concept to A&E?

11/11/11

Controlling the Sailor

I have a terrible mouth. Really. Ever since I discovered cursing, my language has gotten progressively worse, and in college it was safe to say that I could rarely form a sentence without an expletive thrown in. To say I cursed like a sailor seems like a bit of an understatement.

Of course, the birth of my daughter caused me to make an immediate change in my choice of words. The majority of the time, you might hear me using such dangerous phrases as 'Geeze Louise', 'Son of a bee sting' or 'Mother of pearl'. Every time I feel myself getting worked up and on the verge of spouting out some atrocious set of words, I feel those little, blue innocent eyes looking up at me waiting to hear what I'm about to say. And given the fact that at her age, she's essentially a parrot, I've developed an amazing amount of self-control and ability to censor myself.

But, sometimes I slip. And on rare occasion, I've slipped big time. One such occasion occurred just the other day, when I was participating in my most common curse-inducing activity..

DRIVING.

I have no patience on the road. Zero. Zilch. I am that person that you see on your morning commute that is hitting the steering wheel and screaming like they just escaped from the sanitarium. 'Road rage' often seems like too innocent of a phrase to describe the furies I can get into when people are driving like morons.

I think this guy forgot to put a few fingers down.

Despite this fact, I've done a really good job of keeping my temper in check when I have Ava in the car. But recently, I was driving along like any other evening, when some mental giant cut me off and slammed on his brakes. I narrowly avoided bashing into his car, and all I could think was 'If my daughter gets hurt right now, I will go to jail for murdering this person on the side of the road'. After normal traffic resumed, and I had pulled myself together, I realized that I had definitely cursed during this situation, but honestly didn't remember exactly what I had said. Until a little voice emerged from the backseat that clued me in..

"Fah…keeng…id…uht."

Oh. Oh dear God. As Ralphie from A Christmas Story would say, I dropped the queen mother of all dirty words, and Ava played it right back for me as a reminder of how terrible of a person I am.

With my jaw now hitting the gas pedal and my heart rate skyrocketing, I panicked to figure out how to address this with her. The only thing I could think of was to say "No no, we don't say that, that's bad!" Of course, she's staring at my blankly, and I can hear the tiny voice in her head saying, "Wwell then why did you say it, idiot?" And why wouldn't she stare at me blankly? She's 2, she doesn't know what a 'bad' word is, she's still wrapping her head around what a WORD even is.

I essentially realized that there was nothing I could do at the moment, other than hope that she didn't repeat it again, and use the scenario as a reminder to be constantly aware of what's coming out of my mouth. Fortunately, she didn't say it again, though I was on pins and needles for the entire drive, hoping that this phrase wouldn't suddenly become a staple of her toddler lexicon. I was just imagining her wandering around saying "Elmo? Mickey? Chicken? Fucking idiot?"

I felt like a terrible parent. A terrible person, really. But as the night went on, my guilt subsided as I realized that I'm obviously not the first person to curse in front of their child, even the first person to drop the good old F-Bomb. Ava isn't going to grow up to be some maladjusted ne'er-do-well simply because I had a spell of road rage.

I know the cursing sailor in me will never completely die, but the key is learning to control when he makes his presence known.

What about you, parents? Have you had a moment where your inner sailor came back to haunt you?

10/25/11

I'll Be The Judge Of That

I won't beat around the bush; I'm a judgmental person. It's rare for a day to go by where I'm not raising an eyebrow at someone for something they've done or said that I find to be less than intelligent or not my style. Am I proud of it? No. Do I wish I could change it? Sort of. Has my constant eye for scrutinizing others paid off at times, or resulted in me being "right" in my judgment? That's where things get hairy.

If there's one area in my life where I've tried to hold back a little on being judgmental, it's toward other parents. My last 2 years as a father have taught me a couple things. 1) There's no tried and true method to parenting. What might seem "right" to one parent could be totally ineffective and wrong for another. 2) What might seem like questionable parenting at first glance may have a much deeper story to it. I don't know how many times Ava has fallen or hurt herself, leaving a noticeable wound on her face, arm, etc. And EVERY time, I worry that I'm going to take her out in public and someone will think I have been abusing her or something.

With all of that being said, sometimes my mental alarm still blares when I see parents do certain things. Every now and then I'll just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and some mom or dad triggers my Derpdar (like Gaydar but for idiots) and I can't help but put my judge's robe on.

Example: I was recently driving to the gym, and as I turned into the gym parking lot, a dad was leading his 2 children on a weaving bike ride right through the middle of the parking lot. Now, granted, this isn't exactly a Walmart parking lot on Sunday, but there were still plenty of cars pulling in and out of the lot and having to come to sudden stops to avoid hitting this family. If it was just the grown man doing this, I would  have said whatever, and gone along with my day hoping that this imbecile gets knocked off his Huffy as karmic retribution for being a moron. But here he was, guiding 2 kids that couldn't have been older than 9, in what was literally the worst place to ride a bike other than right out on 135th Street.

Yes, I judged this guy. And no, I don't feel sorry. He was being a bonehead. And when you are dragging your kids into your ill-thought-out, dangerous activities and putting them at risk of getting hurt, you deserved to be judged a little bit.

Judge Judy riding her invisible Derpcycle.

Example 2: While using self-checkout at the grocery store recently, the other self-check lane was occupied by two women, one with a small toddler in the shopping cart, the other with an especially rambunctious boy, probably around 4 years old. This kid was definitely a bit over-energetic, but it's not like he was a feral child climbing the walls and attacking innocent patrons. But the way that his mother was acting towards him, you would have thought he was committing felonies. Never have I heard a woman be so unnecessarily loud toward her child, repeatedly use the word 'stupid' to describe him, and then the clincher was when she reached back, grabbed a fistful of his hair, and dragged him by his head forward to where she was. The kid was clearly in pain (hell, I cringed just watching it) and the mom showed no remorse.

Now in this situation, there was no "Well maybe there's more to the story than what I've seen." This was just a woman being a jackass, for lack of a better term, toward her kid. And clearly, I wasn't the only one who thought so because shortly after the hair dragging incident occurred, another woman walked up to the mother and made a comment about it being unnecessary. Of course, this started another explosion, but that exchange could fill a blog post itself. Yep, I judged the hell out of this woman, and deservingly so. In the end, she was acting like more of an animal than her son.

It's silly to say 'Don't judge others'. Because really, it's an impossible feat. Sure, there might be some religious zealots out there that disagree, but the reality is, there are situations where judging isn't done to be mean, but is done out of genuine concern for another human being. I didn't judge the parents in these two instances because they were wearing something weird, or smelled like old cheese, or something else petty along those lines. I questioned their actions because I was legitimately concerned for the safety and well-being of their kids. Don't feel bad for judging others if, at the root of it all, you have valid concerns or good intentions. To me, being judgmental, like eating fried food, is okay in moderation.

Being judgmental is just harder to dip in ranch dressing.

10/19/11

Living Single

Though I wish this post's title was an homage to Khadijah, Synclaire, Max and Kyle (thumbs up if you caught that joke), it is unfortunately a reference to a major life change that has occurred for me in the past week. I am now divorced and 'living single'. The following is a few random thoughts and observations on divorce and my life going forward as a single father. It may not be completely coherent and fluid, but let's face it, neither is my brain right now so it's fairly representative of how I feel.

Divorce is a strange, convoluted process. Fortunately, ours was very easy compared to how it could have been and can be for some couples. And of course, I say that with the precursor that divorce is never easy for anybody. Because although the decision was a mutual and cordial one for me and my ex, divorce is a stressful, draining and emotional process no matter how quickly or efficiently you are able to get it done.

All of that being said, I feel incredibly fortunate that my ex and I are remaining friends and I know we will do an incredible job of co-parenting. She's a great mother and I'd like to think that I'm a great father. And even in separate households, I have complete faith that the two of us will work together and do everything in our power to create a wonderful life for our daughter.

I think one of the odd things about divorce is trying to share the news with other people. Let's face it, divorce is a major life event. But, it's not treated like other major life events. Engagements, weddings and child births are all approached with mass announcements. Proactive e-mails, phone calls, letters, etc. are made to spread the big news to everyone far and wide. Heck, even when someone passes away, friends and family will get together to celebrate the life of the person that has left. But divorce is treated as such a taboo and 'hush hush' subject, that it's difficult knowing just how to let people know. You feel like people should be aware. But how do you casually bring that up? Honestly, nobody knows how to react. And though some may not come right out and say it, you can always tell when someone puts on their judging eyes after they hear the news.

The divorce makes me feel like a wobbly drunk. One moment I feel like I'm taking one step forward, the next I feel like I'm taking two steps back. My attitude and mind is in a constant tip-toeing state of flux, where I'm optimistic at the prospect of doing what's right, but disappointed that I feel like I've moved my life in reverse.



I'm a worrier by nature. It's rare for a day to go by where my head isn't filled with anxiety about something, whether it's related to money, work, etc. Well, naturally my new role as a divorced single dad has added a whole new set of worries to my life.

I worry that I'll miss out. We're getting to a point where there's going to be a lot of major events in my daughter's life. Before, working full-time, my time with my daughter was limited already. And now, even with joint custody, it's going to be limited even more. I am so frightened at the idea of not being there for significant events in her life. For example, last night she used the 'big girl potty' for the first time. To non-parents, this might seem insignificant or something strange to be excited about. But really, it was disheartening that I couldn't be there for something that is a parental milestone and something worth being proud of. While I loved the news and getting the phone call about it, I couldn't help but feel bummed that I wasn't there. What else will I miss out on? What else will be reduced to just a celebratory phone call?

I worry that I'll be replaced. I know, it might seem like a silly thing to say. But I can't help it. I know that I will always be my daughter's daddy. But I also know that inevitably, my ex will find another man to share her life with, and in the end, part of her life is our daughter. As a new guy begins to spend time and hang out with Ava, I am scared shitless (pardon my French) that a day will come where she wants to hang out with him more than me. Again, it may be a completely baseless and absurd fear to have, but it's just something that's there in my mind.

I worry that I'll be undateable. Let's face it, "26-year-old divorced father" isn't exactly a hot commodity title on paper. I'm at the age where everyone is getting engaged, married or having a baby (trust me, Facebook confirms this fact every day). Of all the women that are still single, I doubt there are many examining the fish left in the sea and going for the one that has a fry (this is the word for a baby fish, apparently..thanks Google). Maybe this is my own self-created delusion, but I feel like divorced parents are looked at as tarnished and well, how do I put this..women can be really picky. Note that I said CAN BE, and that not ALL of you are *ducks flying tomatoes*! But seriously, as confident as I am in what I have to offer somebody in the future, I can't help but feel like I'm walking around with a scarlet letter 'D' emblazoned on my chest.

I worry I just won't be the same. I know that's a vague, generic statement. But right now, I just feel drained in every sense of the word. Emotionally, mentally, some days even physically, I just don't feel like I'm 100% 'me'. I know it will be a process. I know, that like every rough turn in life, there's recovery time needed to get back on the steady, straightened path. I don't want to be pessimistic. I don't want to assume that I'll have no luck in love in the future. I don't want to think that my relationship with my daughter will be scarred. I'm haunted by 'What ifs' and 'mights', but I need to get rid of those mental demons and give myself some clarity as I move forward. Because in the end, that's what I have to remind myself. I AM moving forward. The steps might seem shaky, and sometimes I'll scoot back slightly to keep myself balanced, but the forward progress is there.

I can't live my life worried about being negatively judged on the labels of "divorced" or "single dad". Because ultimately, it's just me. And I'll be the best me I can be, regardless of arbitrary titles.

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